Massachusetts has taken two lives with a vindictiveness and brutality unsurpassed in our history. It has blotted out the fishmonger and the cobbler whose names are now known around the world, men who in the minds of multitudes will take for the moment their places with the Carpenter. In the face of a world-wide protest of never-equalled dimensions, in the face of appeals from lawyers and judges of the highest standing, and from the heads of foreign governments, with complete contempt for the earnest pleas of the entire European press and some of the leading American daily newspapers that the guilt of the two men was not established beyond doubt Governor Fuller and his council have sent Sacco and Vanzetti to their deaths. Henceforth the world over, when men wish to describe what is worst in any judicial system, they will declare that it is akin to Massachusetts justice; they will speak for years to come with honor of a State in which two men could be executed after seven years of monstrous torture, in the face of world-wide appeals for mercy; when the bar itself was divided as to the righteousness of the procedure; when the evidence was reviewed by only one judge and he was condemned for grave impropriety of conduct in connection with the case. Massachusetts, said Daniel Webster, “there she is.” There she is today, a target for the opprobrium of mankind. Her constituted authorities have used their constitutional powers as cold-bloodedly as ever a Roman centurion had his legal way.
We cannot deny that Governor Fuller and his advisers believe that they have done their simple duty, that they were thoroughly convinced of the guilt of these two men, that they were consciously and conscientiously virtuous in repelling foreign criticism and foreign pleas. They believe that no one else has so mastered the case; that no one else has seen so many persons connected with the crime, and no one else has heard as much testimony. They feel that the delays of years were of the prisoners’ own choosing, and not the fault of the judicial system as if anyone could be blamed for taking advantage of any loophole to escape from a single prejudiced judge! They are sure that they have possession of important facts never brought out in court; that the bulk of Massachusetts opinion is on their side and that the foreign excitement was due to the Defense Committee and its propaganda. They could not, they said, yield to threats; they could not yield to the demands of foreign ignorance deliberately misinformed. Least of all could they yield in the face of the bombing of a juror’s house. It was their duty to see the law through; their duty to uphold law and order; theirs to take the pound of flesh. They did so, clothed in the righteousness of men in whose minds no single doubt as to the correctness of their procedure, or the wisdom of their decision, could come to rest.
They did so and they outraged the opinion of the foreign world, voiced thus by Ramsay MacDonald, the former Prime Minister, in England: “This whole affair is too terrible; I hope the reputation of the United States will be saved the honor of this execution.” They did so, and they struck at the reputation of the whole nation. They did so and everywhere strengthened the hands of violence and of all those persons who believe that the world can be reformed only by bombs and bloodshed. Everywhere they have made peaceful men and women despair that progress may be achieved without force. They have enforced law and order and created disorder. They have upheld the majesty of the law only to bring it into contempt. They have destroyed the deterrent power of the death penalty in this case, if it ever had any. And to them this has seemed good Americanism and good statesmanship! They must have heard, as have we, of the profound concern in the Departments at Washington as to the effect of this happening upon our foreign relations; they must have heard that there they think our international relations will be clouded for twenty years by the shadow of this tragic event. At this Governor Fuller has shrugged his shoulders; the men were guilty in his eyes; the delay was no fault of his and the sentence must be carried out immediately. After seven years he was not willing to wait even a couple of months longer in the hope that those doubts, raised and re-raised by such powerful journals as The New York Times and World and the Springfield Republican, might be resolved. He could not wait a minute, although every hour that passed after the publication of the Lowell committee’s findings and his own, only increased the feeling of doubt as to the correctness of those decisions. Individuals and newspapers that said at first: “Well, we must accept the Lowell report and the Governor’s findings,” swung around the more they studied these documents and demanded further study and further explanation. With every hour the contradictions of the two viewpoints became more plain and the disagreement as to facts. But the Governor could see no occasion for mercy rather every reason for getting the case out of the way and ending the public excitement and confusion. So, as we said last week, he has made it necessary to guard the American flag wherever it flies over an American public building outside of the confines of the United States.